There are many reasons to engage kids in frequent storytelling (it’s fun, it nurtures creative thinking). One of the greatest reasons why storytelling is so important is because it builds strong narrative skills, which are crucial for reading comprehension as well as writing stories. Storytelling helps to develop kids’ understanding of plot elements and how key story events are organized temporally and causally, and it also helps kids make good predictions and inferences when they read. There is a strong scientific link between frequent storytelling and literacy success.
One product that has been a family favorite since the kids were preschoolers is Rory’s Story Cubes, which are a set of dice with various images on them that add a fun twist on storytelling (there are now three different sets available, including the Original Rory’s Story Cubes, Actions, and Voyages.* The cubes come in a small box that make them great for travel (including the beach bag and the plane carry-on)! They can be used to tell individual or collaborative stories, where the dice are rolled and participants take turns adding to the story using the images shown. This can be really fun! My kiddos have also had fun using the dice to create written stories, and in particular to write books (with each dice linking up to a page in the book (see the photo to the right). Preschoolers can create their own books too by dictating their stories to an adult and adding corresponding illustrations.**
Parents, participate in your kids’ storytelling and help them learn to be good storytellers. Provide guidance so that oral and written stories contain these features:
- A clear beginning, middle, and end.
- Main elements of stories, including characters, setting, character goal or an initiating event that leads to a problem, main problem/conflict, a resolution to the problem, an ending.
- Descriptions of characters’ thoughts and feelings
- Story language, including character dialogue; conventional expressions (e.g., “once upon a time” , “one day”, and “the end”); and temporal and causal connecting words (e.g., first, second, next, then, because, last)
In addition to storytelling while on vacation/with prompts, kids will benefit tremendously if oral storytelling is part of daily family life. Encourage your kids to tell and make up stories, and parents, do it too! Take advantage of “problematized” situations in your family’s life and encourage family members to share what happened, ideally using the characteristics of stories I listed above. For example, if you locked yourself out of the car after dropping your kids off at camp, tell the story at dinner that night, wrapping it up in a beginning, middle, and end and including the key story elements (e.g., setting, problem, resolution). To keep everyone on their toes, leave out an important part (e.g., the resolution to the problem), and see if your kids can figure out the missing piece.
Most of all, have fun with it. Storytelling is such a great way for families to connect — at home and while on vacation!
* Tell Tale Card Game is another storytelling product that is also great for travel.
** I have no professional connection to the products mentioned in this post. My only bias is that they have proven to be a great storytelling tool for our family!